Some Pancreatic Cancer Patients Receiving Chemo May Benefit from Antibiotics

According to a story from Healio, a recent study found that patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer (more specifically, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, the most common form) that were being treated with gemcitabine, a chemotherapy agent, appeared to see longer survival when they were also administered perichemotherapy antibiotics. However, in patients receiving fluorouracil, a different chemo agent, the benefit was not present.

About Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most dangerous forms of cancer. The disease affects the pancreas, which is a glandular organ that is situated behind the stomach. Part of the reason that pancreatic cancer is so dangerous is that it rarely produces noticeable symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage and begun to spread. However, even when detected earlier, it is difficult to treat effectively. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include being male, old age, African American ancestry, family history, smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, and a diet heavy in red meat, processed meat, or meat cooked at very high temperatures. Symptoms include depression, upper abdominal pain, jaundice, diabetes, constipation, weight loss, and appetite loss. Treatment approaches for this cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Even with heavy treatment, pancreatic cancer almost always returns. The five-year survival rate is just ten percent. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here.


These findings were the result of retrospective data. The study was driven by the need to improve upon available therapies for this cancer, as the available treatments are few in number and also quite limited in their impact. Furthermore, pancreatic cancer tumors are able to develop resistance to treatments like chemotherapy quite consistently.

The researchers were from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai. They opted to look into the impact of perichemotherapy antibiotics following prior research which evaluated the microbiome of pancreatic cancer tumors and found that most of the bacteria present were of the class gammaproteobacteria. There was also data that demonstrated that this class of bacteria could neutralize the effect of gemcitabine by metabolizing the chemical into an inactive form, leaving the tumor unharmed.

The effect of antibiotics was significant in improving survival, but the improvement was relatively modest. However, the patients in this data set were being treated with antibiotics for many different reasons, which often suggests that they were not in good health already. This could mean that the effect could be enhanced in healthier patients. In any case, further perspective studies regarding the impact of perichemotherapy antibiotics will be needed.


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